Currently, we are celebrating Ramadan, here, in The Gambia. I would like to write more about the actual experience later on, but I recently have been doing a lot of nutrition work and discovered something pretty interesting! (Well…at least I think it is pretty interesting)
During Ramadan, it is so common to see dates. Lots and LOTS of dates. No, no, no. Not the dates that occur when a guy asks a girl out for a nice bowl of Benechin. We are talking sweet, wrinkly, delicious dates! Every night, in my compound, we break fast with dates, tea, and cold water. Of course, in my ample amount of down time, here, I began to question…why? Why dates? I have asked my Gambian counterparts and according to the Profit Muhammad: “When one of you is fasting, he should break his fast with dates; but if he cannot get any, then (he should break his fast) with water, for water is purifying.” It is rooted in religious tradition. However, I found the answer that I really desired as a foodie health nut.
Dates are high in sugar, protein, and when fresh, Vitamin C. Along with this, they contain potassium, magnesia, iron, fiber, fat and carbohydrates. These little guys are a quick source of energy and nutrients, digest easily and, after fifteen or so hours of fasting, can help the body’s blood glucose levels return to normal rapidly.
Dates prepare the stomach to receive the food after being inactive through out the day with activating the release of digestive secretions and juices. If they are eaten before eating a meal, they have properties that also relieves a person’s sense of great hunger. This is a positive thing to prevent rapid overeating after fasting. They can also protect the fasting person from having constipation as a result of changing meal times or as a result of having low fiber amounts in meals.
So yeah…these sweet little treats are the bomb. I’d take a date any day if your offering!